What do you fill your days with? It doesn’t matter whether you’re an entrepreneur or business owner, next Monday why not do this simple exercise: for every 15 minutes of the day, track exactly what you spend your time on. Do this for a few weeks (if you can keep up), or even just a few days. After that, look back on your sheet to see where most of your time goes. If you think this is a waste of time because you already know what the outcome is, try it anyway. You may be surprised of where your time actually goes.
Most of us spend our time in reactive mode: dealing with whatever comes our way. Responding to emails, messages, phone calls. The flow of notifications never ends. Most of us start and end our days this way. Brendon Burchard says your inbox is the summary of other people’s agenda for your life. If you let it, that third party agenda will likely dominate the majority of your day. But it doesn’t have to be that way. If you were to put yourself in driver seat, what would you spend your time on?
Email: Other People’s Agenda
I only deal with emails on Mondays, and sometimes on Fridays. I aim to ignore my inbox for the rest of the week, while my assistant keeps an eye on anything truly urgent coming in. Which hardly ever happens. Because unless you’re a doctor or a fire fighter, “urgent” likely doesn’t exist. And in between, she deals with most of the non-urgent requests. Anything that requires my direct attention is flagged for my follow up whenever I hop into my inbox next.
Second, I limit my calls and meetings to Mondays only, with some overflow to Tuesdays from time to time. If anyone wants to book a call with me, they know those days are the ones I’m widely available to talk to my clients and prospects.
Following this schedule quite rigidly, it frees me up starting most Tuesday afternoons, as well as the entire day on Wednesday and Thursday to focus on projects that matter to me (and my clients). In my Happiness book I call this ”the art of being unavailable”. At first, it might appear to be a lower level of service, but it’s a risk I’m willing to take (and have done so for years) to increase my productivity and output on the time that remains.
The schedule above is my version and liberal implementation of the entrepreneurial time system that my mentor Jack Canfield thought me, where you divide your time between focus, buffer, and free days:
- Focus days: activities only you can do, working in your core genius
- Buffer days: preparing for your focus days, taking client calls, meetings, and emails
- Free days: doing nothing work related at all, from midnight to midnight.
As a true workaholic who loves what he does, the free days remain the hardest to implement. For me, “taking the afternoon off” usually means moving my laptop from my office to my living room to finish of a few projects I deeply care about (admitted, while having a glass of wine).
Should this be done?
Having a structure for your days and weeks helps, but once you do one question remains: what do you fill your time with? My aim for my entire team is to focus on money generating activities. It’s easy to outsource anything you don’t like doing to an assistant, but my support team is comprised of human beings equal to myself. I’d hate for them to be doing useless “busy” work just because I didn’t like doing it. For anything that gets done in my teams, we always ask ourself the question: should this be done to begin with?
How do you decide what stays on the to-do list? We all have to deal with a certain amount of work that we don’t necessarily enjoy doing, but that just has to get done. I believe this is the core of Tim Ferriss’s 4 hour workweek: he limits his “work” (the necessary stuff) to 4 hours a week. He fills the rest of his days with stuff he just enjoys doing.
Soggy eggs or pancakes
The deciding factor lies in whether something is an opportunity or a distraction. For example, the other day someone approached me on Twitter and asked if I was looking for more business opportunities. “Of course“, I said, “email me the details”. He did. I turned out that the “opportunity” was to attend a paid networking event for a multi level marketing opportunity. I don’t like those. His pitch for more “business opportunities“ turned out to be a business opporunity for himself, and a distraction for me.
Don’t get me wrong; I think networking is great. Please feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn. But often these opportunities are a distraction, taking you away from your core genius. Especially when its a paid entry to have a breakfast, with, I presume, soggy eggs and/or pancakes. Those kind of events don’t work for me anyway: networking while sitting down with a plate of mediocre food in front of me doesn’t work well. One tends to mingle less while sitting down, or things would get messy otherwise.
Is this an opportunity or distraction?
Sometimes it’s not easy to distuinguish between opportunities and distractions until you learn more. Many distractions are cleverly disguised as opportunities. With so many marketing messages hitting us every day (estimated at 3000-5000 daily), we’ve grown selective of where to direct our attention. On top of that our attention span has greatly diminished.
I remember when I first got “broadband” internet, it took about 20 minutes to download one song. Now we get frustrated when downloading an entire movie takes that long. When our Facebook app is not responding on our $1200+ smart device within a few seconds, we’re ready to toss the overpriced device out the window and get a new one. It wouldn’t be the first time that happened.
Kevin O’leary says money is a great feedback mechanism. Following his reasoning, any opportunity would generate money, any distraction would not. That works if money is a core value. For most business, money is (or should) be a side effect generated by the other core values. For me, I like to align my activities with my purpose in life. In most of my online courses for “freedompreneurs”, we work on defining your passion, purpose and core values. To live a meaningful (business) life, all you have to do is make every decision you make in favour of your true values. That includes deciding on whether something is a distraction, or opportunity for you. If you’d like to work with me to figure out what those are, just get in touch.
“ASAP” is a four letter dirty word
This glorification of being “busy” and everything being urgent is an epidemic in Western society that needs to end. My first article on the “busy” topic is many years old by now and has been featured all around the internet and the guiding principles behind it are the cornerstone of my books and online learning programs for “freedompreneurs”. Being busy is a lifestyle design choice, and the fact I decide to design the life of myself (and my clients and team alike) differently is also, a choice. Ultimately, if everything is always urgent, nothing really is.
So, please remember to take a break today. As a self-described workaholic, that statement is a note to self. I’m no better. But self-awareness leads to change.
I challenge you to do something good for yourself today. Instead of responding to never ending requests and demands from others, think about you. For once, put yourself first. Whether it’s booking a trip, considering other options in your life, or maybe getting started on writing the book you’ve always wanted to write – I’m happy to help where I can. Just click any of the links above, or grab yourself a copy of one of my Freedom Project books. If you need a place to start, my Happiness book is the one that focuses on Happiness at work and bringing that back to the rest of your life. But it all depends on how fast you want to go. Are you going to implement this all on your own, or acquire the knowledge you need today (that’s a nice way of saying: “learn from MY mistakes”) by joining one of my learning experiences and designing your own journey from there.
Ultimately, of course, the choice is entirely yours. But, let me ask you one thing:
What ACTION are you going to take today to get just ONE step closer to your goal?*
(*Thinking about it, waiting for the stars to align or your calendar to free up don’t count)
Bon voyage, my friends.